Build Windows Keynote Thoughts

Holy f@#%&! That’s all I can say… Microsoft just pulled the biggest rabbit out of the hat ever! My expectations, as well as the rest of the attendees were high, but I really do feel that they managed to live up to those expectations and then some!

Everyone I have spoken to over lunch have been impressed and just want to get their hands on a Win8 device ASAP. It will change the way we work with Windows to an extent that I think few can fathom at the moment. But I think the companies that produce touch panels will be the ones who gain most from this new OS.

What surprised me most about the keynote however was that it wasn’t a Apple rip-off. It was a true Microsoft keynote! Possibly a bit more focus on the UI parts than normally, but still true to the Microsoft spirit.

So, what have we seen so far? Well, a lot of things that had been shown before, as well as a few that we hadn’t seen.

First off booting… Windows 8 boots faster than anything I have seen before. They showed several machines booting during the keynote, and all of them booted within seconds. I thought my Sony laptop that boots in 20 seconds was fast, but this was ridiculous and makes my machine look like it was made 10 years ago…

The booting is also combined with a new suspended state that lets you run the machine at an ultra low power usage, but still resume instantly as well as checking e-mails and things. This will be awesome for tablet  devices, which obviously is a big target!

The next interesting thing is the lock screen. It is pretty much a replica of the WP7 lock screen, with swipe to open as well as “status” information even before unlocking.

Unlocking the device also showed off a new feature (although optional), “picture password”. This feature makes it possible for you to select a picture that will be shown as you unlock the screen. You then “program” gestures and touch-points that act as the password, for example click on nose, draw along a line and then click the sun (or something). Quite a neat way to log in, which however is optional with the old school password or a new 4 digit pin also available.

As you enter the OS, you are shown a tile based start screen which has been shown several times before. It feels natural and offers a lot of flexibility. This together with standardized settings management will make most apps more similar in functionality, and make them easier to use for more people. The settings and apps can also be synched to the cloud and to other Win8 machines that you might have, giving you the same settings on all your machines.

And that brings me into synching and cloud based functionality. The OS uses cloud based synching through Live extensively, which I personally thought I would hate, but it offers a lot of flexibility and possibilities. Synching pictures, files, settings etc into Live is awesome!

Not to mention the new feature that gives you access to other Win8 devices through Live. Just leave you home computer on as you go to the office, and all of the home computers files can be reached either through the work computer or through a web interface at Something that makes things like Dropbox a bit less interesting… I love it!

And everything is more integrated in the OS like that, not just synching. And not just things that Microsoft has built into the OS… They open up the system with integration points for your apps, making it really easy to extend the functionality of windows. Things like having search functionality of your custom data through the standard Windows search. Or being able to extend the pictures “hub” with pictures from other sources than the prebuilt ones. A feature that I can see a lot of social media sites integrating with.

But if we leave the basic OS functionality and look at the development story, we are once again faced with a lot of cool stuff. The main thing being that we get to choose from a bunch of different technologies that can all do the same thing. This makes it possible to leverage previous experience and knowledge.

The options are Win32 development with C or C++, .NET/Silverlight with XAML and C# or VB.NET, and finally HTML5 and JavaScript. These technologies can all be packaged up and deployed as an app. So just pick your favorite technology and get started. They can all leverage the new Windows Runtime or WinRT to do everything they need.

At this point they also dropped another bomb on stage. A bomb that explains why we haven’t been able to mess with pre-releases of Blend 5 yet, even if Silverlight 5 is in beta. And the bomb was that Blend 5 will support HTML5 and JavaScript. This way, the tooling will not be a differentiating factor when you build an app. You will have the same tools for all the technologies.

The packaged apps can then easily be sold/deployed through the Windows application store in a very easy way. Once again, just like the WP7 marketplace. And just as with the WP7 equivalent, there will be a control process to verify quality and security of the apps in the store, as well as a trial API. Basically you ca neasily leave all licensing things in the hands of Microsoft if you want to.

The store will also offer a way to market old windows apps that are not Win8 immersive apps. This way users can still search for and find the apps they need, even if the company producing it haven’t had time or money to upgrade it to a native Win8 app.

Ahhh! There is so much more to say, but it is time to go back in and get more awesome information! I will be back and go over more things from the keynote later. I hope! However I might get caught up in playing with the tablet that we are all getting later today… Smile

Cheers, stay tuned for more information!

PS: Pardon any crappy spelling or grammar and things. I am sitting on the floor rushing to complete the post before I have to go back in. But as I said, I will try to come back and write a proper post later today covering everything I can remember.

Comments (1) -

Hi Chris,

What did you think about Silverlight being killed off? And being replaced with Xaml plus WinRT? (Killed off is a bit dramatic but no access to the new Metro GUI means an eventual death for SL IMO)

Is Xaml and WinRT pretty much the same thing as SL? And did you get any feeling on whether HTML5 plus JS will be the favoured language or will it be a level playing field for all the Metro languages?

Have you seen/heard anything at all about how to unit test Metro?


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